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the game of go

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the game

is the oldest board game that we still enjoy today.  It probably began in India over 5000 years ago, quickly migrated to China, and remains popular there as well as in Korea and Japan.  In China, it is known as WeiChi, in Korea it is called Baduk, and Go or Igo in Japan.  In most Western countries, it is simply called Go.

It can be played on any-sized board with an odd number of lines.  9 x 9 is best for beginners and 19 x 19 is the standard for experienced players.  The playing pieces are called Stones and can be any two contrasting colors.

The rules are very simple, but the strategy involved is beyond human mastery.

The sections below describe boards, stones, and their containers, or bowls, that are available for sale.  The three "Lists" in the main menu take you to those pages.

 

Background

For anyone who is uncertain about buying something online from a new website, let me help.  I was the first Manager for the Seattle Go Center and you can contact them via email at "fromweb at seattlego dot org".  The present manager Brian will confirm that I am a real person who is honestly offering real goods for sale.  Also, if you wish to purchase multiple items from any list, I am open to considering a reduced price.  Contact me with your request.

 
 

gobans

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the go board

can be made of any material, but traditionally, a solid wooden block has been the most prized. It is about 42 x 45 cm and 17 cm tall. With the feet, this gives a comfortable playing height when sitting on the floor. For use at a table, a thinner board is necessary.

My relationship with the game of Go began many decades ago in Seattle. I had read about the four traditional arts of ancient China:  qin (the guqin, a stringed instrument. ), qi (the strategy game of Go), shu (Chinese calligraphy ) and hua (Chinese painting ). When I found a simple Go set in a game store, I knew nothing about it and had no one to ask.  Yet I persisted, and as the years passed I became utterly intrigued by the way it combines a spiritual training of the mind and an opportunity to understand human nature.

As we know, the aim of Go is to build and live, as opposed to wanting to kill the King in Chess. This peaceful, non-violent aspect of the game is profound and provocative to me. After a visit to Japan as an invited Go guest, I began to understand the physical beauty of the game. The Gobans, Bowls, Stones and Cushions are an expression of spiritual harmony and beauty. When I discovered a supplier of these treasures, here in my new home in Australia, I realised I could put my past experience of fine woodworking to use and bring these antique pieces back to life. Renovating, repairing, sanding, re-printing, oiling and polishing has taken many months of detailed devotion. Transformed from the years sitting in storage, the stains and dirt removed, each surface carefully and lovingly tended to, these bowls and boards once again approach their original condition.

These are treasures that are now seldom found in the world. They can never be reproduced, as the original Kaya trees and Clam shells are basically extinct. I have sought long and hard for other sources without success. So please understand, these are unique and entirely wonderful pieces. When these items are sold, this site will be on hold unless I can find replacement items. (I will keep looking for more, but with no guarantee of success.)

All of the gobans shown here are used, and were made in Japan. Thus I cannot prove conclusively what type of wood they are made from. The ones that I do label I am certain of, but if you require proof, then you should probably read no further. If instead you are still interested, your decision can only be based on the photographs and detailed descriptions.

Most of these boards, when they were first made, were finished with a laquer that included a stain, giving them a uniform color appearance. You could still see the grain, but you could not easily see the natural variations in the wood. A few of them were also probably in storage for many years, and developed mold problems. One had been used as a table, with a glass ring stain obvious. So when I began sanding, I didn’t know what I would find.

As some of the photos make obvious, these boards, like most wood, have knots and color variations. In new commercial gobans, stains are used to conceal these. Instead, I decided to use a clear oil finish that shows all of the original wood grain. They have been completely sanded down to bare wood, and then relined and refinished with at least seven coats of Livos natural oil. In my judgement, they are “better than new” because they allow the beauty of the wood to shine through. Some of the original stain jobs were almost like paint, completely concealing the “imperfections” of the wood.

Only one of the boards has a small but stable open crack. Most of them are quite old, 50-200 years, and are in no danger of damage from drying.

Because the original conditions of the boards varied so much, not all of them are now totally smooth. Some had deep flaws. The indentations or knots that remain are quite small and would not distract during play. The biggest differences of course are in the grain colors and patterns. Caution:  Do not seek perfection here.

Hi, this is me, Bill.

Hi, this is me, Bill.

The quality of the playing surface on all of the boards is essentially equal. Some have tiny indents. Some of these are smaller than the impression a falling stone might make. I include this only because I don’t want someone to be surprised that the board is something other than “brand new” out of the box. For despite the complete refinishing that has been done, they are still used boards. In my opinion, they have never looked this good, but that is for the buyer to decide.

The few that have their original lines also received the same refinishing treatment to their four sides. (The individual descriptions will indicate original top.)

If you have a question about any single item, please email me and i’ll be happy to address it.

 
 

Go Bowls

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wooden go bowls

are the traditional receptacles for the black and white go stones. They were all made by hand out of many varieties of wood.

These bowls are all used.  I have cleaned, sanded where necessary, and polished them.  However, I have no way to prove what kind of wood they were made from, so unless you are an expert, you can only decide based on how the bowls appear, not on their pedigree.  Also, unless you are professional woodworker with a lot a free time, the present condition of these bowls is about as good as they will ever look.

 
 

go stones

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go stones

that are available today are made from plastic, glass, stone, or the traditional Japanese pair of slate and clamshell. As a long-time go player, I have used glass stones in clubs, and slate and shell, mostly at friend's houses.  And though the quality of the game is still the primary factor, the experience of touching old stones brings with it a feeling for the history of the game, the countless games that people have played on a similar board with identical rules, over the centuries.  They practically force a more serious approach on each move.  The contrast to a mouse-click on a screen could hardly be greater.

All of the sets listed here are slate and shell.  All of them came from Japan, and many are pre-WW2.  Some were used in local clubs, some were from individuals.  Most are in the antique category, as Japanese clamshells, at least of the thickness needed for go stones, are extinct. Many have been used for tens of thousands of games.  If you are looking for mint condition, only a few meet that standard, and are marked as such.

Shell stones have several conventions for grading, with the best category called Snow.  Some of the better stones are labeled this way, but again, because they are used, not every stone in the group necessarily meets this standard.  I include it only to indicate that that set is of superior quality.  Please do not make a selection based solely on that, for your definition may be different from mine.

The photos only show the white stones, but both are included in the set.  Most of the white stones are better than the ones pictured.  None of these sets have any significant chips.  I removed an average of 15% of the worst condition from each set, and grouped similar thickness stones.  Most sets, even the "better" ones, had a range of two or three mm from the thinnest to the thickest.  Most players would not have noticed this, but these sets are now absolved of that issue.

A normal game can be played with about 150 stones of each color.  These sets, with one exception, contain 181 stones of each color.